It was early evening in the middle of June.
Bobby and I had been undercover for ten weeks.
We'd gotten Marcovic to buy our story.
We'd promised to pay him nearly a million dollars for the purchase of a six-month old baby.
Two hours ago, we'd gotten word from the feds that his people had been caught kidnapping that baby from a daycare in Moskva.
Thirty minutes ago, his warehouse in Brighton Beach had been raided. Ten young girls were being held there against their will, waiting for the organization to sell them out to families.
Measures had been put into place by the Bureau task force to keep the news of the busts from getting to Marcovic.
The last piece of the puzzle would be for us to hand over the money to him at which point he would give us the contact name for the man who would bring us our baby.
So at the moment, Bobby and I were sitting on a bench in Central Park with a suitcase full of Bureau money at our feet.
Marcovic only accepted payment in cash and he was due to arrive any minute.
He was probably watching us from somewhere, just to make sure that we hadn't been followed.
Of course, we were pros with that by now.
Ten weeks of living in a fish bowl made a few minutes of being spied on through binoculars seem like a piece of cake.
And there were agents around the park. But they'd been here for hours and blended in so well that even I couldn't make them all out. I didn't even try.
Instead, the two of us sat quietly on the bench, hand in hand.
We couldn't talk about what came next for us because the Bureau was listening.
And we couldn't talk about what had happened earlier because Maas was listening, too.
He'd wanted to make sure that we didn't somehow get double-crossed and end up like Ross.
So while I was annoyed by the intrusion, I appreciated his tenacity and his commitment to our safety.
But so me and Bobby just sat there without talking at all.
And then at last, Marcovic showed up.
I hoped that I wouldn't need the gun that I had strapped to my thigh, beneath my skirt, but it actually went quite smoothly.
Even the part where Bobby and I got arrested right along with Marcovic after we made the exchange of money for information.
Agents swarmed the scene and I found myself face first down on the pavement.
We'd known that it was going to go down like this, but still…I thought that Beemer was a little bit rougher with me than he needed to be.
And he spent a little too much time patting me down.
But I kept my mouth shut as he slapped on the cuffs and pulled me up into a standing position.
Marcovic was cursing in Russian, but he didn't seem to be suspicious of us at all.
He appeared to buy the fact that we were in just as much trouble as he was.
Although, of course, he was in much deeper trouble than he realized, but it was good that he wasn't connecting us as the source of his problems.
I made eye contact with Bobby as the two of us were shoved into the back of the blue sedan that had been our shadow for weeks.
"Just sit tight," Beemer barked as he slammed the door shut.
"Don't say it," Bobby warned me as he guessed what was about to come out of my mouth.
And he was right.
I mean, if they'd bugged our house, then who could say if their car was bugged as well?
And since when did I start thinking of it as our house?
I let out a heavy sigh as I leaned back against the seat and turned my head to look out the side window.
I really wanted to finish the conversation that Bobby and I had begun earlier, but obviously now wasn't the time.
So instead, I had to sit there and stew about it.
And I was definitely stewing.
He'd been…impossible, and I'd been…well, downright bitchy.
I'd been in the bathroom and I'd left the door open a few inches.
It's not like I was getting ready to take a shower or something. I was just changing my shirt.
And I had a tank top underneath so really, I could've left the door wide open and what would it have hurt?
But so I pulled the outer shirt over my head and that was when Bobby had come in the room.
He'd stopped short and abruptly turned around so that his back was to me.
"Alex," he'd said sharply. "You need to close the damn door."
"Because…" he started and then he'd stepped backwards into the room and slammed the door shut before turning on the faucet. "Because when you leave it open then I think I can come in."
"You can," I'd answered simply.
What was the big deal?
I was almost wearing the same amount of clothes that I wore to bed every night.
"You're changing clothes," he argued.
"Just my shirt," I answered.
I was still holding the one I'd planned to put on in my hand, so at the time, I'd been standing there in my skirt and the tank top.
"You think that isn't a big deal?" he'd asked, and then he'd finally turned around to look at me, and I watched as his eyes raked over me. "It is a big deal. And I'd appreciate it if you'd have a little more consideration."
I was at a loss as to what had brought on his anger, but I had a little bit of it building, too.
"Yeah, you act like I'm your brother or something and that it doesn't affect me to see you like this. Alex…I'm not your brother, okay? It does affect me."
And even though I was beginning to grasp his point, it didn't keep me from getting pissed off.
And maybe it was just because we'd been in each other's pockets for ten weeks.
Maybe it was like torture to be allowed close intimate contact with him only to be reminded that it was just for show.
Maybe it was because it hurt to be so desperately in love with him and yet to know that once this case was over, we'd go back to being just partners.
Because even though I'd seen signs of lust in his eyes, desire for me that had to be more than just pretend, it was still only because I was the only woman around.
It was like giving a starving man a cracker.
He wasn't going to give back the saltine just because he wanted a Ritz.
But maybe for once, I wanted to be the Ritz.
So yeah, I was in a pissy mood and I took it out on him.
"Yeah, well I offered to take you to Atlantic City and get you laid and you said no, so who's fault is that?"
And okay, here's the thing.
I've never been afraid of Bobby.
I may have been afraid for him.
Or afraid of something he might do, in the sense of potentially damaging his career type thing.
But I've never been afraid of him.
But the anger that flashed through his eyes at my crass and obnoxious remark had me taking a small step backwards.
He reacted by taking two big steps forward so that he was right in front of me.
"Is that what you think I'm after?" he asked harshly. "You think this is just about sex? That I can't control myself around you because I need to get laid?"
I stood there, speechless, as I watched him rein in his temper. He reached out and grabbed me by the shoulders, but his touch wasn't rough.
In fact it was paradoxically gentle.
He dropped his eyes to the floor for a minute, and then when he brought them up again to meet mine, I was struck by the intensity of emotion in them.
"I can't control myself around you because I want you, okay? You. And I'm not just talking about sex. Are you happy now that I've admitted it? I didn't want to tell you because you're stuck with me in this job and I didn't want to make you any more uncomfortable than you already are…I mean, damn it, Alex, I'm going crazy here."
"I'm sorry," I said immediately. "I didn't think…"
"I know you didn't think," he interrupted sharply.
He was a contradiction of emotions and I didn't know what to do with him.
He was holding me like I was something to be cherished and yet his words were harsh and held a bite to them that I hadn't heard from him in a long time. Not towards me anyway.
And he wasn't done.
"Because you seem to think that I don't find you attractive, and I don't know where the hell you came up with that idea because you're a smart woman and you have a mirror, so it shouldn't be that hard for you to figure out," he said. "But somehow you don't see it, and you keep pushing me and there's only so much that I can take."
"I'm sorry," I said again, although I wasn't exactly sure for what I was apologizing. My mind was about two steps behind.
"I don't want you to be sorry!" he shouted in frustration. "I want you to…I just…damn it, Alex, I didn't want to do this right now. I wanted to wait, but I can't, so I guess I'm the one who's sorry."
"Because I love you, okay? I love you. I'm in love with you. And now you know, and yet you're still stuck here with me, so…I don't know. I don't know what you want to do with that, but there it is, okay?"
"No you don't," I said quickly. And I don't know why I said it, but that was what came out. Surely not the response he'd hoped for, but really, he'd been yelling at me so I'm not sure what he expected me to say.
"I don't? You're going to argue with me about…about how I feel?"
"We've just been too close," I reasoned, and I was in a full-blown panic.
He couldn't love me, and the idea that he thought he did…that was only going to hurt worse once this assignment was over.
Because at least now I knew that he was just pretending, but if it was real, or he thought it was real, and then that went away, too…I couldn't do it.
I had to protect myself.
"It's just a natural reaction to our proximity," I continued.
"No, don't say it again," I insisted. "You don't know what you're talking about."
"You're saying that I don't know my own mind? My own heart? I'm telling you that I love you. And we're behind closed doors. It's just you and me."
And then he'd kissed me.
He'd done it once before when we were in the bathroom.
I'd realized later that it had happened despite the fact that we weren't being observed, but I'd just chalked it up to habit.
We'd gotten used to kissing from time to time as a part of our act, so it stood to reason that it might happen even when it wasn't necessary.
And yeah, I'd been fooling myself.
But like I said, it was self-preservation.
And then this afternoon, he'd done it again.
After yelling out his confession.
He'd still had his hands on my shoulders, but he'd stepped even closer to me so that I was backed into the wall and then he'd slid his hands down my arms until his fingers clasped mine.
And when I'd been expecting a rough and passionate meeting of lips, instead he gave me a sweet and tender exploration that had made my knees weak in a matter of seconds.
He kept me guessing and off-balance, that was for sure.
We stood in the bathroom and kissed like long-lost lovers until his cell phone rang.
He pulled back and looked at me, his eyes filled with not only want, but anger, too.
"Don't tell me how I feel," he said firmly. And then he let go of my hands and took a step back from me. "We'll come back to this, okay?"
The call that had come in was the instructions from Marcovic which led to the meeting in the park.
So all afternoon while we were planning the culmination of our ten-week long sting, my head was a mess.
But, as I keep reminding myself, I am a professional.
Work came first, especially something as important as this.
Wrapping up this case would give us the credibility we needed with the feds so that we would be allowed a little more leeway.
So that we could then start actively pursuing the Ross case, which was the point of this whole exercise.
So even though Bobby's declaration was something I've dreamed about for years, and even though I'd ruined it by telling him that he was wrong and that he couldn't possibly love me, I set all of that aside and did my job.
And I tried not to analyze the fact that he held my hand while we sat on the bench and waited for Marcovic. I mean, we were a couple about to buy a baby. He was being a good husband, being supportive of his wife in a stressful situation. He was playing his part.
Because surely he was mad as hell at me, and he'd probably already worked out a way to retract his statement of love.
So now, sitting in the back of the car, I just wanted to get him alone.
Because I'd realized something over the course of the past four hours.
I'd been such an idiot.
The man I loved had said that he loved me, and what did I do?
I'd refuted it.
I'd argued against the possibility all for the sake of protecting my heart.
Yeah, because my heart was feeling pretty good right about now.
I let out another heavy sigh, completely annoyed with myself.
"Is it that bad?" he asked me quietly.
And the sadness in his voice brought tears to my eyes.
It seemed I was screwing things up exponentially without saying a word.
I saw that Agent Stahl was approaching the car, and the car that Marcovic had been put into was driving away.
She opened the back door, and gestured for us to get out.
I awkwardly scooted myself out of the car and Bobby followed, and then Stahl took off our handcuffs.
"Nice work, guys," she said. "You've got two days off, and then the boss wants you to report to the federal building."
"He's pulling us out of undercover?"
"Not really, but between cases, you'll be working there like the rest of us. And apparently another agent heard that we'd acquired you, and has requested your assistance on a case. So now that you've proven yourselves, well…the boss is willing to give you some rope. Don't hang yourselves."
"Thanks," I replied at her backhanded compliment. "What agent?"
"You'll find out on Monday," she said as she walked around to get into the car. "Nine o'clock. Don't be late."
"Nine o'clock," I scoffed. In the old days, we would show up at 1PP around seven. Nine would be like a vacation.
"Hey!" Bobby called out to her just before she shut the door. "So are we out of our trial period?"
"Yeah," she replied with a smile.
"No more surveillance?"
"Hey, it's the government," she shrugged. "I'm not making any promises."
I glared at Beemer as he walked across the parking lot and climbed into the passenger side of the sedan and then the two of them drove away.
Everyone else was gone by this point, too, so it was just me and Bobby.
And we had forty-eight hours of down time.
And I was suddenly nervous as hell.
I watched the taillights on the sedan until they were out of sight, and then I pulled the button from my shirt that was the department wire. I tossed it into my purse while Bobby made a quick call to Maas.
"Yeah, I don't know who it is, but I'm curious to find out," he said. "Yeah, we will. Eames removed the bug, so we're off duty until Monday, okay?"
He hung up the phone and put it in his pocket, but he kept his eyes focused on the ground.
We'd ridden to the park in a cab, but it was such a temperate night that I suggested that we walk for awhile.
"We can head in the right direction, and when we get tired, we'll get a cab," I said.
"That's fine," he replied blandly.
He wasn't going to make this easy on me, and I suppose that was only fair. I sure as hell hadn't made things easy on him.
"So…" I began cautiously after we'd walked for a couple of blocks. "About earlier."
"Eames, you know what? Just forget it," he said, and the words were hurtful, even though his tone was gentle. "I shouldn't have said anything. And you didn't do anything wrong. It's my problem, okay?"
"No, it's not okay," I said as I gathered my resolve.
And then because we were walking side by side and yet I wanted to see his face, I stopped him by grabbing onto his arm and pulling him over to the low wall that bordered the outside of the park. He sat down on the rock surface of the wall and I stood in front of him.
And then it started to rain, a light misting of moisture, but I didn't care.
We were at a crossroads.
And I had to make sure that we took the right path together.
"I…didn't want you to…confuse your feelings," I began. And maybe it wasn't the most eloquent of starts, but it was a start nonetheless. So I plowed ahead. "I was afraid that since we've been spending so much time together that you would mistake that for love."
"I'm not a kid," he reminded me.
"I know that," I said, closing my eyes and trying to find a way to regroup. It was all or nothing. "See, I'm in love with you," I stated. "But I kept pretending that I wasn't, and so when you said that today, it was like exactly what I wanted only I thought that it was…I don't know, almost like cheating. By you being forced to live with me and spend all of your time with me, I thought that maybe it was like putting you under a spell to make you love me."
"I was in love with you before this job," he said quietly.
And then finally…finally, he brought his eyes up to mine. And then he reached his hand out and grabbed hold of mine.
"Before you moved in with me. And maybe this situation has forced my hand by making me be honest about it…I'll buy that…but it has nothing to do with how I feel."
"Yeah," he said, and now a smile began to play at his lips. "Unless you want to argue about that and tell me that it's not true."
The rain began to fall harder now, but I barely registered its existence. Instead, I locked my eyes onto his as he slowly got to his feet and wrapped his arms around me.
"So, I'm sorry," he said as he buried his face into the crook of my neck. "But I think I missed something. What was that thing you said just a minute ago?"
I exhaled deeply and broke into a smile.
"Which thing?" I teased. "About you being confused, or…"
"Alex," he entreated softly.
And really, I'd waited long enough to say it for real. Almost too long. I'd almost messed everything up.
"I love you," I said confidently.
And I'd said it a hundred times over the past ten weeks, but now he was the only one who was listening.
To my surprise, he hugged me close, picking me up until my feet came off of the ground.
"We've got our work cut out for us," he said, still holding me up. Then he swung me around until I could stand on the wall, which made me about a foot taller than him.
"Uh huh," I agreed, liking the change in our positions. I leaned down and kissed him, running my fingers through his now-wet hair and then grabbing hold so that I could dictate the angle of the kiss.
I pulled back quickly as an unknown person carrying an umbrella crossed the road to where we were standing.
Bobby turned around and I stepped down off the wall to stand beside him.
"I thought that was you. And Eames…"
It was Mike Logan. And he stood there grinning like he'd just won the lottery.
"How the hell are you guys? I heard that you're not with the department anymore."
I watched Logan as he gave Bobby a hug, slapping on his back enthusiastically, and then he moved over to hug me as well.
I'd always liked him, but I hadn't seen much of him since he'd left the department the year before.
"We're good," Bobby answered. Logan kept smiling and looked back and forth between the two of us.
"Uh huh. I can see that."
"It's…not what you think," I said quickly.
"It's not?" Bobby and Logan asked me simultaneously.
"Well, I mean…"
And I was stumped.
Were we keeping our cover for Logan? And which cover was that, exactly?
Or was it that Bobby just didn't care about him seeing us because he wasn't with the NYPD?
Oh, we had so many ground rules to go over.
"I was headed into Mahoney's for a beer," Logan said with an understanding nod. "Come on. You two look like you could use a drink."